Void

Mele Broomes in Void at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Tom Forster


V/DA and MHz in association with Feral
Summerhall
August 14-26


Part of the Made in Scotland showcase, VOID is one-woman dance performance based on J G Ballard’s Concrete Island, and reimagined from the perspective of a Black woman, Angela. Concrete Island was the second in an urban disaster trilogy with a white, male, middle class protagonist facing his internal psychological demons after a car crash. The environment remains harsh and sterile, as Angela is trapped alone in an industrial landscape rendered harsh by inspired lighting and sound effects inextricably entwined with the frenetic, disturbing choreography. Ballard’s cool prose has been replaced by a vibrant physical retelling of entering the terror of a psychological void. The script is not just flipped, but turned inside out, showing us what could be termed the ‘negative’ of the privileged, patriarchal supremacy; the internalised trauma of the negation of self, as she grapples with the pain of fully confronting her reality. Yet ‘negative’ is as complex a term as ‘void’, as the show explores. If you are familiar with any of Mele Broome’s previous dance performances such as Grin, you will know to expect a highly conceptual piece. The Character and Concept Consultants are Ashanti Harris, an artist, dancer and activist who is one of the co-founders of Project X Dance Company along with Mele Broomes and Rhea Lewis. V/DA itself is made up of Broomes, Claricia Kruithof and Sabrina Henry. Adura Onashile is a playwright and performer known for Expensive Shit and HeLa, the story of Henrietta Lacks. The innovative MHz scenography is integral to the show, produced by Megahertz duo Bex Anson and Dav Bernard. The dramaturg is Lou Cope and the overall producers that form Feral are Jill Smith, Kathryn Boyle and Conner Milliken.

With a team like this, multilayered complexity is a given. In the production, the experience of marginalisation is pushed to the extreme, and we are pulled along for the ride. Broomes explores the possibility of agency in the placing of oneself fully outside that system of oppression, depending on how you use the experience of being on the empty, neglected hinterland. The first thing is to find a spark of life within, and test the environment without, expressed in tentative, incredibly controlled finger movements after the initial car crash. We’re already invested in her finding her lifeline, and we feel her urgency as she attempts to get attention from passersby. We recognise the futility of imploring those who cannot see you for help. The piece has also been influenced by text The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study’ by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten which sees the potential for revolution in inhabiting the despised chaos that forms the shadow of the values of the Enlightenment. Placing oneself necessarily outside the system to allow for physical and psychological survival, including the space for independent thought, has a long tradition in maronnage in slave societies in the Americas and also the strength of commonality that comes from each other in those communities. What happens in a post industrial society where our lives are marginalised and also atomised? It takes determination to move yourself away from that mental space where reason and logic continue their own mental colonialism. A conversation is impossible with those who are indoctrinated into the superiority of their system. As Bob Marley sang, no one but ourselves can free our minds.

In this reimagining, Angela remains an architect.  As she is forced to the margins of a decaying environment, this allows the clarity to imagine and reconstruct a better future. Not just the physical environment, but the inner landscape of oneself. As Angela violently fights and struggles within the darkness of a black dustbin bag, she is able to metamorphosize within her chrysalis. Demolishing the inner architecture of colonialism must precede the process of reconstruction. The deliberate unravelling of the ‘false self’ Fanonian mask of white femininity symbolised in her heels, impotently hanging from the wire fence, allows for the rekindling of real strength and power. As her high heels come off, Angela must reground herself by reclaiming her identity on her own terms. To the sound of the steady beat that has come down through the generations, Angela draws strength from Black women’s historical struggles for freedom in order to reclaim her present identity on her own terms. The architect of her future takes the scraps of her false costume to create a head wrap before our eyes with an air of self-determination and defiance. By self-regulating the presentation of herself, the headwrap becomes a potent symbol of the internal reclamation of power. How deceptively fertile the void can be.

Broomes will play with the audience in breathtaking physical contortions, such as moving into a headstand into a scorpion pose. While she does this, she disconcertingly manages to look at the audience in an intense stare that somehow bizarrely dares the audience to reflect on their own reactions at observing the working out of her own trauma. Physically, Broome’s strength and control are mind-blowing. Her long braids are pulled, jerking her head to and fro as if her strands of hair are antennae trying to make sense of fleeting, intense vibrations in the environment. The density of the movements conveys the resistance inherent in moving to incoherent and impossible demands of the exterior. The feeling of immersion in a harsh industrial landscape and the chaotic energy we feel from the erratic choreography would not work without the industrial soundscape. Urban sounds are sampled, and the movements against the fence create the disturbing soundtrack and industrial noise pollution which helps to keep us all on edge like in the townscapes we inhabit in our everyday lives.

Thought-provoking is an overused, almost throw-away phrase, but this dazzling performance triggered a tsunami of thoughts. As our society is based on a philosophical culture of white male rationality necessarily detached from body and feeling, then non-verbal communication through such a powerful dance performance is the perfect way to step outside these all-encompassing modes of thinking and seeing. It strikes at the heart of the most cherished and celebrated foundations of our unbalanced society, which is what ironically makes VOID’s true effect beyond words.

Lisa Williams

five-stars

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Circus Abyssinia : Ethiopian Dreams

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Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows
Aug 19-20, 22-26 (15:00)

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Unknown.jpegCirque Abyssinia tells the autobiographical story of brothers Bibi and Bichu, who dream of performing in a circus. The man in the moon hears their wishes and transports them to the fantasy world of the circus… Here Bibi and Bichu and other members of Konjowoch Troupe embark on heart in your mouth stunts as the two youngest members are hand vaulted high into the air and caught again by human cradles; somersaults, flips and diving from one human cradle to another, they were received with rapturous applause..

Next in the show were a group of female contortionists, who danced to Ethiopian rhythms and bent themselves in every way possible in serpentine movements, they stacked themselves on top of each other and even supported themselves by their mouthes. The audience were captivated. Next was a colourful display using discs spun by feet and arms, amazing juggling of lit up sticks by the troupe and the original and now grown up Bibi and Bichu, and a cheeky clown who the kids loved.

The grand finale was a Chinese pole which the troupe took turns to climb up and perform tricks sliding down. You could not fail to be impressed by this talented and energetic group who so joyfully perform their circus skills. Great for adults, kids and lovers of circus!

Reviewer : Sophie Younger

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JoJo Bellini : Crash Bang Cabaret

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The Stand Comedy Club 2
Aug 17-27 (22:05)

In 2003, JoJo Bellini was in a major car accident after which she was inserted with all manner of metal poles & said she’d be in a wheelchair at 40. That never happened, & instead she’s jiggying it up at the Edinburgh Fringe in a rather mental hour of ‘cabaret.’ This essentially is her singing some classic tunes in various attires, interspliced with rather warm anecdotes as to her life since the accident. A karaoke queen whose voice isn’t exactly amazing, but which is more than made up for by her enthusiasm, JoJo provides a flouncing flagon of breathless & eye-popping entertainment. I rather felt like one of those old guys in the 60s sipping my mild ale just as a group of flower power girls waltzed into the pub in miniskirts & ordering white wine spritzers.

JoJo comes across like a horny Valkyrie, whose principle message in life – & one she preaches –  is to live your life to its fullest & have fun along the way. Deliciously daft, I’m like ‘is she taking the piss, is she taking the piss as an artform, or is she in fact quite serious about what she does.’ The end result is something quite astounding, not brilliant, but definitely watchable. Welcome to Edinburgh JoJo Bellini, a bubbly-loving, doctor-defying damsel, whose late-night antics are a perfect start to a boozy night on the town.

Reviewer : Damo
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Djuki Mala

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Assembly George Square Theatre
Aug 16-20, 22-27 (16.30)

Ten years ago, a youtube clip was posted from a community called Galiwinku, located on a small remote Island called Elcho Island, at the very top end of Australia. It was of some native aborigines doing Zorba The Greek, & it went rather viral. Its protagonists loved to dance, y’see, of among whose number, Baykali Ganambarr gave a recent interview to the Mumble in which he described his family’s love of dancing; ‘When I was a kid I saw my family dance, my uncles, brothers and father mainly traditional in ceremonies. Then I started to get inspired by my uncle who performed with Bangara. I started off with traditional, then came pop ’n’lock, break dance, hip hop and pretty much everything else. Being a kid in small community and watching the first DJUKI MALA dance I wanted to be with this company, in fact I needed to be there.’

Djuki Mala was the troupe formed after Zorba went viral, who have gone on to tour the world. A decade later their show is a slick piece of physical theatre played out in front of & inbetween wee films which tell the story of the group  also their heritage. ‘Despite the past we are still here,‘ says someone from Elcho Island in a film, & for me, the start of the show is the best, when I felt as if I was a colonial inspector on her majesty’s business, sitting beside some tribal chief while his bravest warriors before the ancient dances of the tribe. Amazing stuff, with a recorded didgeridoo – liek a bee on crystal meth – entwining with the shamanic chants of some Aboriginal elder, & the five painted boys piercing the stage-air with spear & limb : an amazing treat.

But then things changed. They’re right little vibe merchants are Djuki Mala, & have decided to present dance routines sprung from their love contemporary music; disco, hip-hop, old musicals, etc. & proceeded to give us a mish-mash of material. The quality was not in question, but the subject matter was a bit Butlins, & incongruous to say the least. The show had rapidly ran away from its proud roots & entered something underneath contemporary dance, a showcase of populist entertainment which of course pleases the masses – & if that’s what you want they do it more than fantastically well – but for me things had gone wildly awry. Yet, we are ALL members of the global village now & Djuki Mala are supreme representations of that. Both proud to be who they are & excited to be able to absorb international culture, repackage it & present back to us it for our entertainment. is to be commended, but I personally I wanted more Aboriginal material, for everything else they did is just a youtube clip away.

Reviewer : Damo
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Circa: Humans

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Underbelly’s Circus Hub 
Aug 16-20, 22-26
19:00

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Circa have been notable renowned within the contemporary circus industry since 2004. Creating influential circus performances to excite and enthral audiences worldwide. The award winning Circa, directed by Yaron Lifschitz has performed in 39 countries, pushing the limits of physical ability, while combining movement, humour, dance, theatre and circus. Circa return to the festival once again to perform ‘Humans’ at Underbelly in the Lafayette tent, a 550-seat venue, which on a Tuesday, was a sell out performance!

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As the Lafayette tent swells with the patiently queuing audience, a couple of performers dressed in black commence their warm-up, playfully undress down to their leotards, using the clothes to assist their stretches. Dressed in warm hues and transparent black clothing, the ten strong performers flip, spin and throw themselves on to the stage one by one to dynamic energetic music. For the past couple of years Circa have stripped back the glitz, glamour and fluffy bunny suits. Lifschitz has changed direction to provide a no frills, just an expert performance of acrobatics and circus art. Supported only by simple spotlights and empowering music.

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The continual energetic bursts of movement and powerful stunts have the audience on the edge of their seat, at times there is so much activity you do not know where to focus. All the while the talented muscular performers make each movement seem effortless. The trust and playful familiarity the Circa cast maintain is admirable. The few props; swing, bricks and hanging belts are used sparingly, centring solely on defying gravity and twisting their inhuman-like elastic bodies into contorted forms. In once sequence they comically try to lick their elbow, demonstrating they are only human, however in the final act this is contradicted, as one man holds and balances four performers on his shoulders. As always the Circa crew do not fail to disappoint. I urge you to see this extraordinary performance before it sells out.

Reviewer : Sarah Lewis

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Camille O’Sullivan: Where Are We Now?

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Underbelly’s Circus Hub
Aug 10-13, 15-20, 22-26 (19:45)


I had been looking forward to this show all weekend, when the big advertisements went up around Edinburgh, Camille stood out, not just for her gothic beauty, but because her advertising campaign was massive, and heavily featured David Bowie. Indeed the title of the show is taken from his 2013 release “The Next Day.” But I knew that this was going to be much more than just a tribute. I avoid Bowie tributes because they never live up to the benchmark of the ascended master, having seen him live nine times, the live repertoire that I have experienced ended in 2004. Any release after that time was never performed live. Interestingly I have never seen a male interpret Bowie convincingly.

black_white_copy.295x0.jpgThe Underbelly Circus Hub is brilliantly situated in the rolling green of The Meadows, a welcome tonic from the busy city streets at this time of year. The queue for the performance that I was about to witness, wrapped itself around a Spiegel Tent in which Camille and her band were sound checking. The piano intro to Life On Mars made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. The anticipation was building. We took our seats in the round as the voice of Bowie in conversation greeted the capacity audience, setting the tone for what was about to follow. This was a dedication to the Artists that had shaped Camille’s life, Interpreting the work of her musical heroes. Three ascended masters, Bowie, Leonard Cohen and Jacque Brell. With choice selections from masters that are still in the mortal coil. Nick Cave. PJ Harvey and Radiohead.

With a tight band of supporting musicians, Camille delivered a rock ‘n’ roll spectacular with a powerful voice and for the first time, I was thrilled by live renditions of Blackstar and Where Are We Now & Leonard Cohen’s final offering, You Want It Darker, a song that has featured in my DJ sets at festivals throughout the year, also thrilled. The antenna was further upped by a blistering rendition of Rock n Roll Suicide, a powerful nod to Ziggy Stardust that was introduced by a recording of the late masters farewell speech at Hammersmith Odeon in 1972. This was great stuff. The songs of PJ Harvey and Nick Cave I am not so familiar with, but with a performance as spectacular as this it inspired further investigation. especially the closing number Nick Caves “The Ship” was sung in harmony by the audience.

Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

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